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Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature
is (1) the space in the choir of a church in which the high-altar is placed; the name is sometimes extended to the whole choir. (See CHANCEL). It is (2), in Scotch law, an ecclesiastical division of the country, as well as a court. (On the Continent this is known as the classis.) In its local sense it includes a combination of parishes, varying from four to thirty, and the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland has power to vary the size. — Chambers, s.v. (See SCOTLAND, CHURCH OF).
The presbytery is composed of the teaching elders of the churches of a given geographical district, together with one of the ruling elders elected for that purpose by the Session from each church. Besides being a court of appeal from the inferior judicatory, it is bound to inspect carefully the personal conduct and pastoral labors of every minister within its bounds, and, when necessary, to admonish, suspend, or even depose. It belongs to presbyteries to grant licenses to preach the Gospel, to take cognizance of all preachers within its borders, to give certificates of character, etc., to those removing, and to furnish supplies where needed for the pulpit. Ally Church member who feels himself aggrieved by the act of the Session may appeal from its decisions to the Presbytery. Superior in authority to the Presbytery is the Synod, which is composed of the teaching elders and one ruling elder from each church of a larger district than that represented by the Presbytery. Still above the Synod is the General Assembly.
This embraces representatives, both lay and clerical, from every Presbytery, and is the supreme authority in all ecclesiastical matters. To it an appeal lies from the Presbytery in all ecclesiastical proceedings of a disciplinary character, and its decision is final. Its authority, however, though supreme, is not unlimited. In legislating for the churches it is required to refer the laws which it passes to the presbyteries for their approval; and the law does not become of binding force upon the churches until it receives the sanction of at least a majority; in certain cases two thirds are required. The Presbytery holds frequent and stated meetings, according as circumstances may require. In any emergency it is in the power of the moderator (q.v.), on his own responsibility, or on receiving a written requisition from several members, to call a pro re nata meeting of the Presbytery. In Presbyterian churches, where the supreme court consists of delegates, it belongs to each Presbytery to elect ministers and elders to represent them in that court. All the proceedings of the Presbytery must be duly minuted by the clerk, and are subject to the review of the Provincial Synod. (See PRESBYTERIANISM).
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McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Presbytery'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/​encyclopedias/​eng/​tce/​p/presbytery.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.